A hero cop thwarts a brutal murder and can’t remember a thing about it. But memories return—and so do the nightmares in this breathlessly paced thriller for fans of David Ricciardi and Michael Connelly.
Every town needs a hero—and Detective Cal Farrell fits the bill. He stopped an active shooter six months earlier, and now he’s become the darling of the Alexandria press. The problem is that Cal remembers nothing from that day. He’s working with a psychiatrist to recover his memories, but hasn’t had much luck.
Then, on one of his morning runs, he is once again the first on scene for a grisly discovery—a body hanging impossibly high on a tree. Soon there’s another victim, killed by a blade and dumped in a ravine. As the bodies begin to stack up, each staged more gruesomely than the last, Cal sees a baroque pattern to the crimes that no one else seems to understand—something out of legend.
As Alexandria dubs the serial killer “Old Town Jack,” Cal learns that the only thing a city loves more than creating a hero is tearing one down. And if he can’t get to the truth, this hometown hero might just be next in line for destruction.
“A raw, visceral, hard-charging police procedural and a relentless thriller packed into one explosive novel. You’ll finish this book breathless.” —Lee Goldbeg, New York Times bestselling author of Movieland
“THE GUILTY ONE is the perfect kind of crime novel. Crackling with suspense and chock full of compelling characters, this book grabs you by the throat and never lets go. I absolutely loved it!” —Don Bentley, New York Times bestselling author of Hostile Intent
“Skillfully executed and fast-paced, Bill Schweigart’s THE GUILTY ONE will haunt you long after reading the final page. Brilliant!” —Bruce Robert Coffin, award-winning author of the Detective Byron Mysteries
“Bill Schweigart’s THE GUILTY ONE is a brutal, bloody blast. The plot moves like a rollercoaster, the dialogue snaps like a whip, and the pages practically turn themselves.” —Andrew Bourelle, author of 48 Hours to Kill and Heavy Metal
“THE GUILTY ONE is a fast, fun, incredibly thrilling novel, as well as a compelling argument for the necessity of police work and a deep examination of its costs. Or I could keep it short and sweet: Bill Schweigart is REALLY good. Read this book!” —Nick Petrie, author of The Runaway
Bill Schweigart recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest thriller, THE GUILTY ONE.
Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?
A sketch of the plot. I had long wanted to do my take on a Jack the Ripper tale, set in modern day Alexandria, VA, but it really took shape when I paired the tale with my main character, Detective Cal Farrell.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
I love crime fiction, particularly the “dogged detective on the trail of serial killer” genre. The haunted detective, up late, case photos scattered on the table before them, trying to recognize that one minute detail that will unlock the mystery. I wanted to try my hand at it, but I knew I had to make it my own. I tried to differentiate Cal enough – certainly as haunted, but not losing himself in a bottle. He does all the right things to stay well and healthy, but with all his proactivity, he still can’t outrun his past.
What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?
For the first act, each chapter alternates between two timelines. The present day, where Cal makes a grisly discovery while out for a morning run, and six months prior, when he is the first responder on scene at a mass shooting event. It was challenging to make each timeline compelling, so that at the end of each chapter, you’re excited to jump back and forth.
Was there anything new you discovered, or surprised you, as you wrote this book?
Pacing! I was on a big James Patterson kick during the writing of THE GUILTY ONE. There was a potential opportunity to work with him, so I read several of his books on the chance it panned out…and it did! I got to collaborate with him on a novella. Between reading his books, then working with him, I learned a new appreciation for keeping the pages turning, for relentless forward motion. Working with him was a clinic, and I’d like to think I learned my lessons well and applied that narrative urgency to THE GUILTY ONE! (By the way, our co-written story, “Women and Children First,” will appear in Patterson’s Three Days To Live, out February 14, 2023!)
No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
A lot of the heroes in fiction these days are out for blood (and I love reading that as much as anyone else!), but I very consciously wanted Cal to be more concerned with justice. I wanted him to be the kind of cop that anyone would want working their case. The word hero is derived from the Greek hērōs, which literally means protector. He wants to help.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
My favorite authors are Carlos Ruiz Zafon (RIP), Gregg Hurwitz, Tana French, Brian Michael Bendis, Stieg Larsson (RIP), Henning Mankel, Nick Petrie, and Don Bentley. Each of them features something that I love – rich characters, dense plots, gorgeous prose, high octane action – or all of the above!
Bill Schweigart is the author of the Fatal Folklore Trilogy. A former Coast Guard officer, Bill lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and daughter and daylights with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.